In military aviation there are few group insignias more well-known than the leering shark's
grin of the famous Flying Tigers. The P-40's that they flew are probably the most easily
recognizable aircraft profiles in history. But how many people actually know the history
of the Flying Tigers?
The Flying Tigers were officially the First American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force.
Their unit was officially not an American unit, but a squadron of the air force of China.
It was also a very short-lived unit; their first combat was on December 20, 1941 and the
unit was officially disbanded on July 4, 1942. Less than 8 months in existence, and in
that time this group of volunteers racked up a score of 299 Japanese planes destroyed with
another 153 probably destroyed. All of this with a loss of 12 P-40's in combat and 61 on
For more information about the Flying Tigers, their history and achievements, please visit the
official Flying Tiger web site at
www.flyingtigersavg.com. The information provided there is well worth reading for
anyone interested in military aviation history.
This model is of a Curtiss-Wright H81-A3 (P-40B) "Warhawk" (Tomahawk II to the RAF).
It originally had the tail number of P-8127, the manufacturer's serial number of 15494, and
since it was initially destined for the Royal Air Force it had the RAF number of AK542.
It arrived in Rangoon, Burma in May of 1941. The markings are those of aircraft number
47, Third Pursuit Squadron "Hells Angels", First American Volunteer Group "Flying Tigers".
It was flown by Flight Leader John Petach, Flight Leader Robert Layher, and Flight Leader R.T.
Smith (who also flew aircraft #77). It eventually crashed in China sometime between December,
1941 and July, 1942. The engine from this aircraft is said to be on display at Torrence
airport in California.